12/14/06

319 War of the Colossal Beast

(1958, Horror-Giant Critter, b&w), with:

Mr. B Natural
(1957, Educational-Industrial, color)

Knew your father, I did!

Rating: ***1/2

In a nutshell:

Short: A hyperactive androgynous man/woman inspires youngsters to learn music.
Film: The beleaguered military captures and loses the now-insane colossal man.

Short Summary:

Prepare to vomit rainbows and kittens.A marching band spells out the brand name for us (Conn!) and then we focus on a written line of music in treble clef. One of the notes suddenly transforms into an overly exuberant woman (man?) in a leotard and fancy jacket named Mr. B Natural. After insinuating herself/himself into biblical events and casting bizarre aspersions on the viewer’s parentage, she/he introduces us to Buzz. Buzz is a twelve-year-old kid who’s not very popular at school. One night, Mr. B pops into his room to do some spastic interpretive dances about the joy of learning a musical instrument. Thus inspired, Buzz drags his parents to the music store to buy him a trumpet. When he vacillates on what brand to buy, Mr. B pops in again to scold him. Of course, he should buy only the very best brand (Conn!). Buzz makes the right choice and joins the high school band, rapidly becoming the most popular boy in school.

Film Summary:

In War of the Colossal Beast, a Mexican boy drives a truck into the mud, and then runs away. The truck’s owner goes looking for it, only to find that it’s vanished without leaving any tracks. This bizarre event south of the border is newsworthy enough to make the San Francisco evening news, where Joyce Manning desperately searches for news of her gigantic missing brother.

Glen Manning, as you may remember from The Amazing Colossal Man, was exposed to radiation and went insane while growing sixty feet tall. Even if you don’t remember, an army major neatly sums it up for us while making a pass at Joyce. Joyce goes to Mexico to question the now hospitalized Mexican boy. The boy screams a lot, and finally mentions a giant. A military investigation locates Glenn in the mountains, now with an exposed skull and eye socket, where he communicates only in growls and steals grocery trucks for sustenance. They drug a bread truck and bring him down.

The military stores him in a Los Angeles airplane hangar while the various government bureaucracies decide his fate. He escapes briefly, and is quickly recaptured and subjected to a battery of psychological testing. They determine that he’s brain damaged and a menace to society, so they make arrangements to ship him to a deserted island where he’ll hopefully die.

Glen kills his psychiatrist and escapes, rampaging through downtown Los Angeles to Griffith Park Observatory. When threatened by the military, he holds a busload of school kids over his head. Joyce drives up to reason with him, and brings him back to sanity. Glen puts the bus down and fries himself on some nearby power lines.

Introduction:

Kitla: Princess of Power!Joel and the ‘Bots have cards with various Mexican food words. They mix and match them to make new kinds of Mexican-American appetizers.

Host Segment One:

Joel and the ‘Bots move on to making celebrity names into Mexican-American appetizers, such as the “Pat Morita Fajita.” The Mads unveil their invention, “The Breakfast Bazooka.” Dr. Forrester nails Frank with a complete breakfast, and they eat crepes off his jacket. Joel has invented the “Between-Meal Mortar.” He throws himself on a live Twinkie to save his friends; it explodes into a shower of creamy white filling.

Host Segment Two:

Joel moderates a formal debate between Tom and Crow on the subject of Mr. B’s gender. Crow argues, rather conclusively, that Mr. B has breasts and is therefore a woman. Tom rebuts that Mr. B is a man who will not be constrained by societal norms. They devolve into bickering about cigar-chomping men in Little Bo Peep costumes and other affronts to good taste.

Host Segment Three:

Joel wears his big head from Episode 318, and they sing a song about it. Glen Manning (Mike Nelson) shows up and gripes about show business.

Host Segment Four:

Joel pretends to be the news announcer from the movie, using the station’s call sign (KTLA, pronounced Kitla) as his name. He makes predictions about the future, gradually devolving into complete nonsense.

Host Segment Five:

Joel and the ‘Bots eat some drugged bread and fall asleep, and then they read a letter. Still griping, Glen reads a letter for them too. Down in Deep 13, Dr. Forrester uses the Breakfast Bazooka to blast TV’s Frank with Thorazine waffles.

Stinger:

Mr. B does a freaky interpretive dance.

Thoughts:

Alternate title: The Grunting Skull.Try to imagine the most cheerful, bubbly person you know, and then magnify that happy personality by a factor of one hundred. You should now be picturing a maniacally energetic person so upbeat that that no one would tolerate their company for more than a few seconds. In fact, by now just imagining them should be making you so ill that you must now think of something unpleasant (dead bunnies, or meatloaf) to bring yourself back to reality. Even this horribly obnoxious imaginary person falls well short of Mr. B. My own mother, not a fan of the show but not opposed to it either, only made it halfway through the short before she fled the room.

War of the Colossal Beast acts as the somber meatloaf to Mr. B’s saccharine rainbow. This slow, turgid film creeps through its sparse events to the sixty-foot man’s inevitable death. It ignores most of the elements of the previous film (Glen now has a sister, not a fiancĂ©) and casts entirely different actors (though the grotesque makeup and lack of any lines makes Glen’s casting irrelevant). Also, Griffith Park Observatory apparently uses enough electricity to instantly burn a sixty-foot man into vapor. This film makes its predecessor look like a cinematic masterpiece.

The two most notable host segments are the man/woman debate in segment two and the KTLA future newscast in segment four. Tom and Crow take their arguments to wild extremes, while Joel delivers his bizarre predictions (Alan Alda will be the anti-Christ) at top speed with impeccable timing. Mike Nelson reprises his role as Glen Manning in segments three and five, still touchy over his treatment by Hollywood producers.

In the film segments there’s a memorable quote almost every minute during the short. Joel says a number of them, such as “Is this Liberace’s mom,” “Mr. B, you’re hot,” and “Oscar Wilde only wishes he were this gay.” The movie doesn’t have as many great lines, though there are a few, especially in the beginning. When Joyce watches over the hysterical Mexican boy, Crow says, “He’s crying for his mother. Her name was AAAUUUHHHHGG!” By itself the movie would probably only rate a two and a half, but combined with the high-energy short, this is an episode you must see.